In anticipation of Accepted Students Day on March 22nd, I sat down with some seasoned graduate students to gather their advice for how to best prepare for a campus visit. As a first year Ph.D. student and a second year MA student, respectively, Sam Sorenson and Ashley Evans shared the following kernels of wisdom with our future colleagues:
- “Don’t be shy. Try to interact with everyone to get a realistic feel for the department.” Admittedly, Accepted Students Day can feel overwhelming. You are likely to meet a slew of new people, who will ask you a bombardment of questions about your potential interests, academic experiences, and hopes for graduate school. However, try to chat with as many people as you can, in order to get a better sense of the social fabric of the department. Realistically, you may be spending the next 2-9 years with this group of people, so you want to be sure that your future program is a good fit academically as well as socially.
- Pro tip: if you feel nervous in crowded spaces, or about introducing yourself to new folks, please feel free to reach out to your Recruitment Representatives (me and Megan Bruening) for help.
- “Don’t feel confined to one space.” Your graduate experience will certainly bring you beyond the walls of one building. Depending on your schedule (and, let’s face it, the spring weather), consider taking a stroll across Lehigh’s beautiful campus. Your fellow graduate students can also recommend their favorite local coffee shops and restaurants if you want to check out the vibrant South Side community in Bethlehem.This is also a great way to get a sense of the local area when you are deciding where you might want to look for housing.
- “Be fully present.” With our email and social networks at our fingertips, it’s easy to get caught up on our phones and laptops. However, if you want to get a genuine feel for your potential future classes or collegial relationships, it’s best to remain in the moment and actively listen/ respond to those around you.
- “You don’t actually have to know exactly what you want to do!” A lot of people are likely going to ask you, “So what century/author do you want to research?” Take it from a late bloomer, you don’t need to have your entire graduate experience mapped out on day one. Arguably, the point of your early graduate studies is to take a variety of courses to figure out what intellectually stimulates you and which professors you might want to work with in the future. Even if you write an MA thesis, your interests may change during the exam process if you choose to pursue a Ph.D. (as I can attest). It can feel uncomfortable to admit that you don’t have everything figured out, but remember that one of the reasons why you wanted to go to graduate school in the first place is because you love to learn new concepts, so give yourself room to enjoy a variety of topics before specializing.
Thank you again to Sam and Ashley for sharing their reflections. If you can think of any other helpful advice for visiting students, please share it in the comments below.